Commerce lobby readies for polls as officials exit

Sunday February 17 2019

Kiprono Kittony

KNCCI National Director Kiprono Kittony. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

BRIAN NGUGI
By BRIAN NGUGI
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The incoming leadership of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) is expected to confront a myriad of challenges in selling Kenya to international investors despite the country’s improved ease of doing business.

The lobby, the largest business membership organisation in Kenya with a presence in all the 47 counties, is set for elections at a soon to be announced date after its current leadership served its full term.

The current chairman, Kiprono Kittony, has served two three-year terms after what he terms a successful tour of duty and will not be seeking re-election, which means traders are bracing for a new regime.

Kenya scored a series of victories in the latest World Bank (WB) ease of doing business report following concerted efforts by the local business community and the State agencies but hard questions remain on the ranking.

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report for the year 2018 saw Kenya move up 19 places to position 61 out of a total of 190 economies.

The country improved on matters such as registering property, protecting minority investors and simplifying filing tax returns even as questions on corruption prevalence refused to be swept under rug.

The Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform report that surveyed 190 economies ranked Kenya among top 10 biggest improvers, having jumped from previous year’s position 80 to 61.

In Africa, Kenya, with a score of 70.31 came fourth after Mauritius (20), Rwanda (29) and Morocco at position 60. It beat giant economies on the continent such as South Africa and Nigeria, which came in at 82 and 146 respectively.

The biggest improvement was in protection of minority investors where it moved from position 62 to 11. Further, the report says Kenya has cut the time required for a business to register property from 61 to 49 days thanks to introduction of an online system to pay fees.

Jostling for position of the outgoing chair of the KNCCI is already heating up with three candidates having confirmed they will contest for the post.

The successful leaders are expected to confront some of the challenges that have impeded Kenya’s ease of doing business.

Nairobi chapter KNCCI chairman Richard Ngatia, national vice-chairman James Mureu and chamber chairman in-charge of membership and business development committee Stephen Mbugua have so far expressed interest for the chamber’s president.

The candidates are already promising a raft of reforms as they seek to lure members to their camp.

Mr Ngatia, one of the leading candidates for instance, told the lobby’s annual general meeting (AGM) held on February 8 at the Nairobi Hospital Convention Centre he is eyeing to develop a market framework that “will increase efficiency of the markets in Nairobi” as well as enact a revamped trade and markets policy to complement national policies.

“We need a well-structured regulatory environment to enhance business, increase employment and income for the traders who are mainly women and the youth,” said Mr Ngatia.

He said at the AGM he is currently in talks for a joint initiative with the Nairobi County government and the Kenya Airports Authority to establish a welcome centre at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the Nairobi Central Business District and the commercial district of Westlands to allow visitors as well as investors to get access to ready information on the country to enable them sample the best of Kenya with ease.

“We held a successful five-day retreat with the county executive and the County Assembly Trade Committee in January to seek concurrence on the development and necessity of a trade and markets policy, it was agreed it shall be concluded by June 30,” said Mr Ngatia.

The chamber has proposed a raft of changes including renaming the national chairman’s position and vice-chairman’s post to be referred to as the chamber president and vice-president.

“The chamber has also introduced a position of second vice president who shall be an appointee of the president and meant to address skills, gender, regional, youth and disability related imbalance at the top leadership of the chamber,” said the traders’ lobby in a statement at its AGM.

Those seeking to contest for the first vice-president’s position are Charles Wako, Julius Opiyo and Fatma ElMaawy.